My Mother Vs Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

by Anthony Smith

When I was a child, videogames were very much the pastime of the child; my friend Wayne and I would spend hours playing Bubble Bobble on the NES with a level of skill I’d never be able to recreate now.  We’d swap tapes loaded with ZX Spectrum games on the playground blissfully unaware that we were contributing to the eventual evolution of DRM. The only times I would ever see an adult play a game was my father playing Snooker on the ZX Spectrum 48k and later games like Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker and Archer Maclean’s Pool on the Amiga 500. My friends parents didn’t game, my teachers didn’t game and my mother didn’t game.

What my mother did like to do was comment on my gaming. The music, when it was there, was repetitive. She couldn’t make out what we were doing, and when she could it seemed pointless or wrong. Her comments on my driving in the Batman: The Movie game have always been a source of my fear of learning to drive: “I’m never getting in a car you’re driving” she’d say. I tried to explain that the Batmobile was a little trickier to drive than the average Ford Escort but that didn’t fly with her.

My gaming experiences as a child were confined mostly to the Spectrum, Amiga and various Game And Watch LCDs as My family never had the money for the flashy consoles of the day and if I wanted to play Kid Chameleon I’d have to do it around a friends’ house. That was OK though because they’d come around mine to play Magic Kingdom Dizzy, then that Dizzy whore turned up on the Mega Drive and I again yearned for a real console.

When I was thirteen and my brother was eleven my parents got divorced.  I should have seen it coming but apparently we were both oblivious to the problems at home, probably because over the past year I had received a Gameboy, my brother a Game Gear, and we shared a Mega Drive. Honestly, there could have been a fire and we wouldn’t have noticed. The following couple of years weren’t always the happiest of times in our household but we got on. We’d visit our dad and have good times watching movies whilst eating chips from the local chippy, while at home we’d hog the tv to play Revenge of Shinobi. My mother didn’t mind, unless it got in the way of Coronation Street or The Generation Game, but one thing that always remained was that she didn’t “get” videogames.

Very advanced, very grey and very much ignored.

When I was fifteen we all moved to live at our nan’s and a few years after that we had a place of our own again; around this time I received a console as a present that would eventually allow myself and my mother to bond over videogames. That console was the grey slab of nightclub culture known as the Playstation One, or at least the “One” would be added later as it was still just Playstation at the time. It was a futuristic piece of kit for the day; I had seen CD Drive consoles before, a memory of playing an Amiga CD-32 is a strong one that still haunts me to this day, but no CD based console had forced its way into my home with more bravado than this one. When I got it I had Wipeout, Demolition Derby, Tekken and Twisted Metal World Tour which my mum thought were all loud, ugly and violent and, in retrospect, that was possibly the most accurate description of the early PSOne era anyone could have stated.

The game that eventually brought us together in gaming though wasn’t your typical PSOne game. It was bright, colourful, full of charm and involved blowing up a load of jewels that allowed giant headed characters to beat the hell out of each other. That game, of course, was Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo. I don’t know what attracted my mother to this game as the only one I can recall her playing before this was Dragon Tiles on the Amiga; maybe it was because it had an inviting, friendly image. Maybe because it involved a little more obvious skill and brain power than say Tekken. Maybe my mother liked watching the cat lady hit the weird Japanese doll looking girl. Whatever the reason she eventually plucked up the courage to ask if she could play.

Looking back now, I wonder if it was difficult for her to ask; it’s not like I had ever thought to ask her to join in. These were the playthings of a child. Adults have things like knitting and the watching of soaps to keep themselves happy after all, but ask she did and accept the challenge I did. I won. Repeatedly. To the point where I started to feel like a bit of a jerk, but she kept asking to start the next round up and I did so.  I picked Dan and still won.  I played with the controller behind my back and still won.  She didn’t mind at all though.  “Next game, come on” she’d say; she was addicted. Eventually these sessions involved my brother, my friend Paul and anyone else that dropped by. We’d play winner stays on then, after a while, I’d start handing the pad over because it was really I stay on. I played this game a lot. After a while my mum wanted to try other games and Devil Dice became a favourite as did pretty much any puzzle game in my collection.

Flash forward about eight years and I’m watching TV because my mum has snatched my DS off me to play Zoo Keeper. Thankfully she turned the music off; If you’ve ever played the game you’ll understand why. We’d replaced Super Puzzle Fighter with Tetris on the Xbox, at least until one day when I had the custom soundtracks on and Metallica’s cover of “So What?” started to play; she was not impressed. My Uncle noticed how she was stealing my DS all the time and so he purchased one of her own as a Christmas present and it pretty much became the most expensive Game And Watch ever as she’d only play the one game, that game being Zoo Keeper. I tried to get her to play Advance Wars, really I did, but my efforts were wasted.

We had our little challenge matches on various puzzle games and it brought us closer together. It was something we shared. We hadn’t really had shared interests since I was a child, watching Cell Block H and Jasper Carrott on TV and occasionally do word searches together. Naturally the teenage years put an end to that; what teenager wants to bond with their parents?

I didn’t notice it at the time but my mother was ahead of the curve. These days the biggest change to gaming has been the influx of the “casual” gamer, those who are generally older gamers or people who, for some reason, don’t see the Wii as a games console but as some sort of self help guru in digital form. Yet I question how casual a gamer can be if they play one game all the time with no interest in buying a new one, because that’s what I see all the time. I work in retail these days and mothers tend to be either buying games for the kids or dad to play but rarely for themselves. When they do they’ll usually look for a new one and ask for something like a “casual” game they already have; one that they feel like they’ve played to death after a year of owning it. Casual gamers, it seems, know what they like and they like to stick to it.

My mother was a hardcore gamer. She just didn’t like to kill things or race around a track fifty times to gain a googolplex of exp. Who could blame her? It was far more interesting for her to herd various animals into lines of three, to collect gems into blocks of four and smash them, to line up dice so there were six die with the number six facing upwards in an adjoining configuration. Devil Dice sure was complex stuff.

My mother passed away in August 2008. Since then I’ve not played so many puzzle games; I have Super Puzzle Fighter HD Remix but I just don’t feel the need to play it without someone to enjoy it with. I still have my PSOne copy and I don’t think I’ll ever part with it. I see it as a memento of time spent with my mother, as much of a memento as the (currently) broken watch I am wearing on my wrist as I write this that she got me for my birthday two months earlier. Capcom’s chibi puzzle based re-imagining of their Street Fighter and Darkstalkers franchises will always remind me of how I enjoyed sharing something with her.

To end this article I have this to say this: if your parents ask to play a game, don’t be so afraid to let them. Even if it means you’ll beat them mercilessly… in the game I mean. It could not only be a great chance to share something with them but also a memory you’ll treasure in years to come when they’re gone. Being able to share an experience with someone is a valuable thing and something that nearly always can lead to happy memories. Also, my mum could have beaten your mum at Tetris.




Last five articles by GL Guest Writer

  

20 Comments

  1. LVL54Spacemonkey says:

    Excellent article. Would read again.

    Yeah i know, I’ve read it before. Thanks for posting this and thankyou for letting me be the runner up. Means a lot to have someone I’m not related to say taht i wrote something good. Still trying to decide what to spend the amazon voucher on, Marvel Vs Capcom 3 maybe?

    Anyway, hope ya’ll like it.

  2. Edward says:

    This was amazing to read. I really didn’t see the end coming and it changed the entire way I looked at it, and it was good.
    Well done, and congratulations on the runners up, I can see it was well deserved. :)

  3. Paul says:

    This is really good. I think as I know you and knew your mother it made it a little more emotional to me. Love it 10 gold stars for you!

  4. liz says:

    you definately deserved a prize and I know this comes from the heart. Parents arn’t always old and stuffy and yes sometimes we like to join in. You would be surprised at how things go in our house too. Was very moved reading your story. well done again very proud of you.

  5. Pete says:

    I enjoyed that :) doubt either of my parents would ask to play on my 360 but if they do I’ll be sure to say yes ;)

  6. Ste says:

    Great article. It made me think back to when my brother, my Dad and I used to play Age of Empires on 3 LAN’ed up PC’s at home. My brother used to be really good so me and my Dad would have to pair up in order to beat my brother. However almost every game we played if for some reason me and Dad had the upper hand my Dad would un-ally with me and attack my base just for a laugh. This more often than not would lead to my brother being able to recover and then just steam roll us both.

    It was both annoying and funny at the same time. When asked why he does it, Dad would just say because I wanted to win myself. The bastard.

    Thankfully my parents are both still alive but we don’t play many games together so much anymore especially seeing as I moved away to Sheffield nearly 6 years ago. It’s something I miss quite alot and reading this has inspired me to do something about it while I still can.

    Once again, brilliant read and for the record this would have won the grand prize for me. No offense Dom!

  7. Lorna says:

    I loved this article and it was a contender for me as soon as I read it. We had many personal gaming history entries, but none so touching and poignant as this. While many writers detailed how they got into gaming and charted their history, you actually had a twist of sorts and a very touching message in conclusion which is what made it stand out above the others. I’ll happily admit that this one made me cry when I read it and again on re-reading; is is absorbing, well written, funny, and touching and helped make it very difficult to pick the overall winner. Again, congrats :)

    My big gaming memories with a parent were with my dad and I cherish them. My sister and myself have recently convinced him to get an Xbox, so I hope to build on those great days of co-oping Alien Breed 2, if I can ever get him used to the ‘new style’ controllers i.e ones with thumbsticks, one of which controls an onscreen camera!

  8. Tania says:

    A great article, I felt genuinely sad by the end. Congrats on getting runner-up and my condolences for the loss of your mother.

  9. LVL54Spacemonkey says:

    Thank you for all your comments. I wrote this with very little pre-planning or thought. Just knew what I wanted to write about and went for it. Free form jazz article writing style yo… or something.

    Rereading it I’m seeing loads of stuff I could have written better but I tend to never be satisfied with anything I write. Didn’t tell my family what I had written about, had some kind comments from them about it now.

    I hate to sound soppy but this sort of validation for something I’ve written means a lot so thankyou all.

  10. Samuel says:

    This was a really good article. But my eyes are stinging now. I don’t think I can really add much to what other people have said, but I wanted to comment anyway. Seems like the least someone can do after being allowed to read such a personal piece of writing by a complete stranger.

    Thank you.

  11. james says:

    Cuz that is a really nice piece of heartfull writing there u made me realise that gaming as a youth was classic and should never be forgotten .

  12. Lee says:

    Oh mate I dunno what to say. Anyone who knows me might think that I’m saying this just to get a laugh but I really am being sincere when I say.

    I need a hug.

  13. Knikitta says:

    A remarkable piece of work, one that really carries the reader along easily and without interruption. The ending was a complete shock, and I am still chin wobbling at it after reading it for the 4th time.

    Thank you for sharing something that is clearly very personal, and probably emotional for you.

  14. LVL54Spacemonkey says:

    Well i guess I’ve discovered a way to make lasses get a bit teary eyed. One of my cousins printed this off for my nan to read and she got a bit of a tear in her eye apparently. great, i made my nan cry. Oh man! She’s taking it to the church to share with them. Been a strange week.

    Settled on MvC3 and Pokemon Black for when I get the prize. MvC3 because I need to see if I can make a hole in my thumb from playing too much Street Fighter style fun again. Did that on SFA3 years back, naturally I stuck a plaster on it and carried on playing. Pokemon Black because despite being 28 I still have a desire to catch’em all.

  15. Adam says:

    It’s an outstanding piece of writing and a touching memory which the article nearly convinced me was my own.

    Anthony, Congratulations on the runner up prize, incredibly well earned.

  16. Shiftymorgan says:

    That was a great piece. Got to love zoo keeper because that is exactly the same game my mum has “claimed” and now has a ds of her own. We have bought her many puzzle games but zoo keeping is where its at for her.

  17. Christian says:

    Anthony, you never told me you wrote this – Paul told me recently and I checked it out.

    Sigh. This is an amazing piece of work mate. My last memory of your mum was when I picked you up so we could go to The X-Files movie premiere, and she was saying how smart you looked. Who’d have known she would pass away just two short weeks later?! I miss her too and I still find it strange that she’s not around.

    Any person our age can relate to how your memories of gaming from the ’80s onwards were linked to family relationships; This is the first article or story I have ever read to make this connection! I last saw my Dad when I was eight before he passed away when I was 11, yet I still remember him playing Super Mario Brothers and Ducktales on the NES. In the latter game, in Transylvania, Huey gives a hint about an “illusion wall”, and Dad teased me by ignoring my directions to walk against a different wall, only to disappear through it and uncover one of two special treasures out of the whole game. I was completely dumbfounded! A precious, golden memory.

    HMV has the world’s most talented author working for them. I think it’s time you harnessed this ability; you should be creatively tapping away on a laptop, not mindlessly on a cash register!!! The proof is in all of the incredible comments here of people who have never met you. And we all know how pleasant strangers can be (with their “troll” / “douche” / “fail” comments). So there you are. You have all the proof you need! Make this a novel – and I guarantee you it will do well. This is your calling. Do it. Maybe think of it as another gift from your mum?

  18. LVL54Spacemonkey says:

    Pretty sure I did tell you. Whatevs. Cheers for the comment, although that’s more of an article than a comment.

  19. Hope you don’t mind but I decided to repost this on my film review blog. I have plans to do something videogame related on there soon so I thought I should set a precedent for it with by putting up this post. It’s posted here… http://wp.me/p1wmV5-e9

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